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What is the mystical significance of the Priestly Blessing?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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The Ambiguous Verdict

On Rosh Hashanah we are judged and on Yom Kippur the verdict is sealed. The Heavenly Court determines the amount of Divine beneficence to be meted out to every creature during the following year. Yet we still pray every day, beseeching G-d to grant us all our daily needs.

Why? Because only the annual amount of Divine kindness has been predetermined—not its composition. G-d’s kindness can express itself in many ways – prosperity, good health, children, etc. – we pray for G-d’s benevolence to manifest itself in those areas where we presently find ourselves in need. Moreover, G-d’s supernal attribute of kindness instinctively prefers to express itself in a purely spiritual manner—in consonance with its own spiritual nature.

Thus, the essence of the person’s soul which dwells in the higher realms is the most likely recipient for the kindness destined for an individual. Every day of the year we are judged anew whether our merits are sufficient to “force” the Divine flow – which has been earmarked for us on Rosh Hashanah – in our direction. We pray that G-d’s kindness reach us in a very physical, tangible, and appreciable manner.

Divine beneficence which emanates from this G-dly level proceeds unobstructed and rapidly to its desired destination; it doesn’t stall and break down in some spiritual realm
Forceful Kindness

The soul of the Kohen stems from the Divine attribute of “rav chesed”—abundant kindness.

In the mystical works this attribute is compared to a powerful river whose waters cannot be stemmed. Any obstacles placed in its path are swept away by the surging waters. Divine beneficence which emanates from this G-dly level proceeds unobstructed and rapidly to its desired destination; it doesn’t stall and break down in some spiritual realm.

The Kohanim bless their brethren with the power inherited from their ancestor Aaron. The name Aaron shares the same letters as the word nir’eh “seen”. This is an allusion to the special quality of Birchat Kohanim—its positive results are always visible and palpable.

Blessing Expressway

In the Torah1 there is a story about a “contest” wherein the leader of every tribe submitted a bough to be placed in the Holy of Holies. Next morning Moses brought them out of the Tabernacle, and Aaron’s staff had miraculously blossomed and produced ripe almonds. This was an indication that Aaron was indeed G-d’s choice for the priesthood.

In comparison with other fruit, almonds ripen very quickly. Wouldn’t it have been a greater miracle if G-d had caused the staff to bear a fruit which ordinarily takes a considerable amount of time to develop? Why cheapen the miracle by producing a “quick” fruit?

But the almond is the most fitting symbol for the priesthood. It represents the blessings of the Kohanim which race unimpeded to their recipients.

Footnotes

  • 1. Numbers 17:16-26

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Jewish Identity » Kohains and Levites » Priestly Blessing
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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
Kohanim
Plural form of Kohain. Priests of G-d. This title belongs to the male descendants of Aaron, brother of Moses. The primary function of the Kohain was to serve in the Holy Temple. Today the Kohain is still revered and it is his function to recite the Priestly Blessings on certain occasions.
Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Aaron
Brother of Moses. First High Priest of Israel and progenitor of all Kohanim (priests) until this very day. Died in the year 1272 b.c.e.
Tabernacle
Mobile sanctuary which traveled with the Jews in the desert, containing the Ark with the Tablets, and the sacrificial altars. When the Jews entered Israel, it was erected in the city of Shiloh where it remained for more than 300 years. It was buried when the permanent Holy Temple was erected in Jerusalem.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.
Birchat Kohanim
The Priestly Blessing. Today, the blessing is administered by the Kohanim (Priests) in the course of the prayer services.